It can be hard to create business routines that set you up for success every single day. But in order to find a routine that works, you’ll need to be flexible, honest with yourself, and forgiving.
When you’re an employee your job tends to naturally create routines for you. Up by a certain time so you can workout, get ready, eat breakfast and be at the office in time. Then you’ve got scheduled lunch breaks, your day ends at a specific time and you’re free to leave, run errands, make dinner, feed the cat, tell your SO how special they are, do some chores, and sleep.
Wake up the next day, lather, rinse, repeat.
But when you transition to working for yourself your day suddenly becomes a lot more fluid. No one else is there to tell you when your deadlines are, and no one reminds you to go to lunch. Or shower.
And so you’re either working non-stop all day and don’t surface until it’s 4pm, your stomach growling, and you remember that you forgot to eat lunch. Again.
You’re staring at your computer 100% unsure of what you should work on first and so you end up not working on anything because it all seems a little bit overwhelming. You thought working from home in your yoga pants and no bra was supposed to be easy!
Step One: Start with the non-negotiables
These are the things that happen every single day (or at least multiple times a week) at a specific time. Dropping the kids off at school, when your spouse leaves for and gets home from work, your granny’s doctors appointments, soccer practice, knitting club. Whatever. If you do it daily or most days write it down and note the time.
This helps put brackets around your day. You shouldn’t be scheduling client meetings at 3:30pm if you have to get the kids from school at 3:45pm. Or planning to do a big chunk of work after the kids get on the bus if you have spin class at 9am.
This also helps you maintain a little work life balance.
Step Two: Set boundaries around your day
If you have a 9am spin class do not set your client meeting calendar to open at 9am. Period.
Sure, you can make an exception every once in awhile, but leaving that slot open in perpetuity means you don’t really value the time spent at spin class. (See also Step Five)
Create and enforce clear boundaries with your clients and family, too. If you want to log off when your kids get home from school or your spouse gets home from work or Dr. Phil comes on then hold that boundary. Don’t respond to messages from clients or answer emails.
And on the flip side if you’re working make sure your kids know they have to get their own snack, ask the babysitter or your SO for help, or ignore that call from your mom’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousin. They can send a text message anyway! #amIright
Step Three: Time block
Time blocking your day is an absolute fucking life saver. It’s basically the way your 9 to 5 day worked. You had a morning block, break for lunch, afternoon block, go home. And, depending on where you worked, it could have been broken down even further by meetings or specific deadlines.
You can do the exact same thing with your own schedule at home. For example, I only schedule calls on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And because I know that, I fit my tasks around it and leave all the light stuff for those days in case my call sheet is booked and I have to people all day. #introvertproblems
I further break down the daily shit by focusing on specific types of tasks at specific times during the day. I put the ones that require the most brain power during the hours I’m most alert and fill it in with other stuff that has to get done that day.
Step Four: Honor your natural rhythm
Whenever it is humanly possible, try and honor your natural rhythm and body clock.
For years I thought that in order to be successful I had to wake up at 7am every day (to an alarm… ew) and be sitting at my computer by 8am. I time-blocked but I wasn’t listening to my body and so at the end of the day I was exhausted. Even on the days I didn’t cross much off my list.
But when I started letting my natural rhythm set it’s own boundaries around my day I was less groggy, happier to sit down and get to work, and more focused. I started crossing all the shit off my list. And it was GREAT.
I totally get that this isn’t a thing that everyone can do. Because I live alone and don’t have kids no one wakes me up at 6am leaving for work or begging for breakfast. I can wake up on my own between 8 and 9am, lay in bed for an hour journaling, meditating, liking cute cat videos on Facebook and then get on with my day.
If that isn’t an option for you then do your best to honor your body clock in whatever way you can. If you’re a morning person then do all your heavy work in the morning or if you’re a night owl build that into your evening routine.
The key here is that there is no one size fits all. You gotta do you.
Step Five: Stop doing shit you don’t want to do
This one might be my favorite. Outsource it! This can be anything from business minutiae like scheduling Facebook to cleaning your bathroom. Find out what’s sucking the life out of you and the time out of your day and make a plan to outsource it.
Create a budget and then get to outsourcing personal things like laundry, cleaning, lawn care, food delivery, etc.
Then create another budget and get to outsourcing business things like email inbox management, newsletter scheduling, social media scheduling and commenting, team management, project planning, etc.
And for the love of god, if you hate spin class why are you still going to your damn spin class??
Step Six: Be flexible
I’ve been in business for 3 years and I didn’t find a schedule that worked for me until year two. Before then it was a daily shit show of trying a new schedule for a few weeks, pulling out what worked, scrapping what didn’t work, and trying again.
There is no Magic Formula or Schedule in a Box you can buy that will instantly work for you. You just have to keep trying them on until you find one that fits. And then when it doesn’t fit anymore, find a new one.
And remember to be kind to yourself. Working on a weekend or a 14 hour day is totally ok! Just don’t make it the norm if it doesn’t feel good to you or you forget what fresh air feels like. It’s all about balance.
A Peek at My Daily Schedule
This is my schedule as it stands now. And it’s just recently evolved in the last couple of months, too. See, always be flexible!
8-9am: Wake up naturally (this is super important to my cognitive function, y’all!)
9-10am: Journal, meditate, brush my teeth and shit
10am: Breakfast + check emails and Facebook notifications
11am-2pm: Client work
2pm: Lunch + The Daily Show (I do this so I actually take a break rather than eating while working)
2:30-5:30pm: Client work
5:30pm: Check emails, respond to messages, clear FB notifications, check in with my team
6-6:30pm: Log off and do whatever the fuck I want
My clients know that around 6/6:30pm is my hard limit for the day and I don’t do ANY client work on the weekends. I might work in the backend of my own business on the occasional Sunday but never client work.
So how do you create business routines that work for you?
- Start with non-negotiables
- Set boundaries around your day
- Time block
- Honor your natural rhythm (as much as possible)
- Stop doing shit you don’t want to do
- Be flexible
If you have some really awesome suggestions on creating good business routines I’d love to hear them!